In a Search Engine Journal interview, marketing expert Peter Shankman notes that neglecting the customer's point of view is a mistake, insisting, "It's ridiculously important to let the customer drive your business." If you don't know your customer perspective in 2016, you're missing a big opportunity for organic growth in your business. In today's business world, getting to know your audience can be sophisticated and high-tech, or downright old-fashioned. The good news for SMBs? This is your distinct advantage over the big guys — it's almost impossible for a large company to establish the same kind of personal connection with customers or make rapid adjustments to their marketing strategy.
Track the Cost of Service
Time-tracking software will not only help you gain better customer perspective, it will help you better reach your audience. By monitoring income against time, you can more accurately track the cost of servicing your customer. You can use this data to find your most profitable customers (hint: It's not necessarily the ones spending the most money). Once you can pinpoint those valuable customers, you'll know that any time you spend grooming those relationships will be worthwhile.
Check Your Assumptions
To zero in on what your customers are most interested in, you'll want a customer relationship management (CRM) system that tracks their behavior. More than a simple email list, CRM systems hold information that can help you to identify your customer needs more effectively, allowing you to then use that information to upsell and cross-sell to increase profitability. For example, if you sell women's clothing and you identify customers who only buy dresses, you could direct them to a page showing accessories, or offer an accessories discount.
Do a Walk-Through, Even Virtually
Understanding customers means looking at their touch points with your business. Don't make assumptions — find a neutral party to do a walk-through and report back. Is your reception area clean? Do customers have to wait in line? Are deliveries on time? Change anything that isn't exceeding customer expectations, whether it's freshening paint or retraining employees.
Ask Your Customers
There's nothing like direct personal contact, but to truly understand your customers' perspective, you might consider conducting a survey. Asking your customers for their opinions will make them feel valued — and you'll gain insight — but don't ask for feedback if you're not fully prepared to make changes. And when you do, be sure to let your customers know what you've done is a result of their feedback. Seeing your brand through the fresh eyes of your customer will help you zero in on what it is they're really looking for, which is vital insight that can guide your local marketing campaigns and give you an edge over the competition.